Genre : Puzzle
Publisher : NEC Interchannel
Developer : NEC Interchannel
Release date : December 11, 2003
Buy 'CULDCEPT': PlayStation 2
Card games of all varieties have always been part of a guy's life, but perhaps the most addictive one would be Magic, a game of strategy and luck. I remember my decks -- bringing out my Shivan dragon or my Forces of nature or countering the opponent's spells in order to get the upper hand. Due to the popularity of such games like Magic and D&D, NEC and Omiya Soft have come together to create an addictive game, Culdcept, in which you fight to prove your power as a Ceptor.
The gameplay is a combination of a board game and a card game. When you think of a board game, you think something along the lines of Monopoly, correct? In a sense, this game is quite similar: you constantly go around the board and hope that your opponent will land on your property, forcing them to pay the toll. However, the land is occupied by monsters instead of hotels, and when you land on the opponent's property, you have to pay the toll or defeat the opponent's line of defense. Like Monopoly, each piece of property has its own value, and in order to increase the toll, you must level up the land by using your magic points.
In Culcept, you can only level up your territory if you land on it or land at the fort or castle. When you land at the fort or castle, you can level up any of the territory you own. Leveling up your land is crucial to winning because when the opponent lands on your leveled-up property, you are that much closer to victory. Right now, the game seems identical to Monopoly, but let's see how the magic side comes into play.
As I've mentioned before, rather than having property cards to show that you own the land, you must place a creature from your hand as a deed to mark your area. These creature cards are pulled from your deck of 50 cards. As in Magic, you control what is in your deck by bringing in the more important cards and exchanging the weaker ones. In order to get these cards into your hand, you draw them from your deck. At the beginning of each turn, you draw a single card, unless you used a special spell card which lets you draw more. You can have a maximum of six cards in your hand, and if you draw and exceed your limit, you must get rid of cards in order to stay under the limit. The possible cards that you may have in your hand include creatures, items, or spells. Spells can only be used before your dice roll, creatures can be used after, and items only when in battle.
Selecting the proper cards is vital to victory. You get new cards after every battle, whether you win or lose. It is also wise to anticipate the opponent's strategy and point of attack. Once you've figured this out, edit your deck by adding new cards to counter their tactics. Usually, a deck with a good balance of items and creatures is ideal because the items help boost your creatures' attack or defense stats. For example, the spear adds attacking power, and armor gives your creature more health points. When you are on the defense, HP is extremely crucial. In order for the opponent to not pay the toll, he must destroy the creature card during his attacking turn. If he is unsuccessful, he will still need to pay the toll. So how do you know what has a chance against the creature? When you land on the territory before the battle, you can see how your cards would fare against the opposing creature, but those chances can be changed with items, as I've discussed. The creature will have an = sign if they are about even, a down arrow if your creature is weaker, or an up arrow if your creature has a greater chance of defeating the other. If you win, the creature that you used in the battle will take control of the land.
Let's take a look at the creatures in this game, shall we? There are three major types: attacking, defensive, and ones with magical powers. Attacking creatures are crucial in forcing the opponents out of their territory as well as claiming available territory. There are several different sub-classifications of creatures: fire, water, wind, earth and neutral. Some of these creatures have territory limitations and can only be placed in that type of location. So let's say you have a shark, and its territory limitations indicate that you can't place it on fire, and the best area is to place it on a water territory. These restrictions may also apply on the defensive and magical creatures. Defensive creatures are walls and have almost no attacking power. They also have item limitations which may not allow a weapon, protective equipment, items, or scrolls, and can't be used to attack other cards unless attacked first. Finally, magical creatures can completely alter the outcome of a battle, thanks to their special skills like first strike, confuse, and many more. Using these creatures against strong enemies will give you a fighting edge, since taking the first attack and destroying the enemy card in that turn gives you an easy and much needed victory.
If you want more chances to achieve victory, you should use the spell cards before rolling the dice. Spell cards can do several things: limit your move amount, destroy an opposing card in their hand, or damage or heal a creature before a battle, etc. These spell cards may have some special powers like multiple instances and multiple cursing. Using these spells before a battle can give you that upper hand necessary to defeat the opponent and take their territory.
What are the objectives to winning? Unlike Monopoly, where you are trying to bankrupt the opposing players, the main objective in Culdcept is to raise your total magic to a certain value. In order to do so, you must get territory, build magic from running laps around the board, and get points from the rarity of your creature symbols. The main goal is usually to first go to the fort and then return to the castle. On each level, there are a different numbers of forts, and you are usually required to hit them all before returning to the castle to collect your lap points, much like Monopoly's "Pass Go" points. You just keep going around the board until you or your opponents have achieved the goal.
The maps are very straightforward. You can liken them to racetracks, since you go around them several times until someone is determined the winner. The only thing is that on this track, there are several different items that can help you in achieving victory: altar, warp, fort, and castle. The latter two have already been mentioned, but the altar and warp are essential on the maps. The altar can be a good thing as well as a bad thing because it can provide you with more power to your creatures, or, if you are unlucky, it can take away stats from all of your creatures. Sometimes, when you land on these altars, you will get the ability to draw a card from the deck of your liking. Warp is another essential item on the maps, especially when they aren't completely connected, much like a bridge of some sort. The maps are never the same. Because of these warps, the maps may also be disjointed, alternating the feel of each map. A board that goes through the same lap can get quite repetitive, and I feel that adding the warps was a wise decision because it also allows for a much larger board.
Even though the board may be covering a massive area, the graphics are fairly old school. In a sense, Culdcept took the same route as Disgaea. Rather than concentrate on incredible graphics, they have just implemented a fun game system. While the graphics might be those that you would expect from a Playstation game, the details of the drawings are incredibly in-depth. Having the illustrations done by a talented group of Japanese artists, including Naoyuki Katom, Hiroaru Kaida, and Kasuya Terada, was a great idea. The pictures are quite enjoyable, and it is even more interesting to see how the cards attack. If your card is powerful enough to defeat the enemy, you will see the losing card sliced in the proper direction or destroyed in the matter in which it was attacked. For example, the enemy card would get shattered if it were defeated by an ice attack. The graphics truly reside in the cards and in the short cut scenes that show up once in a while.
The sound in the game is mediocre. You don't really notice the background music, but you hear more of the narrator reviewing what is occurring in the battle. I don't know who did the narration, but they found a good voice that fits really well with the game. Most of the sound in the game will actually come from you as you go through all of the possible options and try to figure out the correct course of action.
Overall, like Disgaea, I feel that this game is definitely a sleeper hit because of the simplicity of the gameplay and the intricacy of the strategy. If you follow my recommendation and try this out, chances are that you'll find yourself playing this title for hours on end. If you do get bored of playing against the computer, you can always challenge your friends because the game allows up to four players to battle it out. Who would have thought that Monopoly and Magic would make the perfect combination? If only this game had come out sooner, I wouldn't have wasted so much time on Magic.